“And by the time I am gone, that is what I want to be remembered for,” were the words of blunt and assertive Joseph Waku, a former Nigerian senator, while extolling the courage and legacy of John McCain, ex-US Republican senator. McCain was an American politician and military officer who served as a senator from Arizona. So principled, the US lawmaker spoke the truth to power. When he passed on in August, Waku, also known for his candour, showered encomium on McCain. He had mused about the futility of life and life beyond the horizon and asserted the need for one to leave a legacy behind but he never knew death was knocking or was he just preparing for his final departure?
“Senator McCain of the United States of America who died a few weeks ago left a legacy of principle, consistency and conscience. McCain was in the hospital when President Trump wanted to repeal ObamaCare. And they needed just one vote to get it through. McCain was flown from the hospital. A senior member and senator of the Republican in the United States of America went in and cast his vote against his party, against his president because, according to him, ObamaCare was meant to save Americans and not Donald Trump,” Waku had said in an interview.
“That is the legacy McCain died and left behind. Now, nobody talks about McCain’s bank accounts. Nobody is talking about his business umpire. People are talking about his principles, his conscience.”
Waku is gone today and people have been praising him for the outstanding contributions he made in his lifetime. He etched his name in the political space, stirred the hornet’s nest and became a voice to be reckoned with among his people.
MKO ABIOLA’S CAMPAIGN COORDINATOR
Born in 1947, late Waku hails from Guma local government area of Benue state. He attended Obid Primary School, Nassarawa state and London Institute of Public Relations. In 1979, he was director of research and publicity of the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP). In 1980, he became a member of the board of directors of Plateau Publishing Company and was later elected member of Benue state house of assembly in 1983. Later, Waku was appointed Benue State coordinator of Moshood Abiola’s Campaign Organisation, tagged Hope 92’. Subsequently, he served as senator representing Benue north-west from 1999 to 2003 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC). Waku was married to Rosemary and blessed with children.
In 2000, Waku sparked a major controversy when he said it was better for the military to return through a coup than for former President Olusegun Obasanjo to continue as a dictator. The former senator said Obasanjo’s government was the worst Nigeria had ever produced. This led to a widespread condemnation as Waku was immediately suspended from the upper chamber.
This didn’t stop the lawmaker from criticising the former president. In 2016, he said President Muhammadu Buhari must probe Obasanjo if he really meant to fight corruption.
“I have access to authority. I have access to Mr. President. I told Mr. President that this corruption probe of past regimes, if you don’t probe Obasanjo, then you haven’t done anything yet. Corruption in Nigeria was introduced by Obasanjo,” Waku had said in an interview.
Waku was a prominent voice against the killing of farmers while calling for the end of open grazing.
“I have been told that some states have adopted the policy of creating grazing areas but in Benue state, we are totally against grazing reserves; we are for ranches,” Waku told Guardian.
“I’m in support of the Benue State government’s policy and I will continue to support any other state that adopts the same idea. In this 21st Century, grazing can no longer be fashionable because locations have been over grown; people have taken farmland and there are establishment of ministries, towns and villages.”
ACCUSED APC OF RIGGING OSUN ELECTION
Although a card-carrying member of the APC, Waku moved against his own party. He had described the Osun governorship poll as a sham, asking Gboyega Oyetola, who was declared winner of the exercise, to make a public confession.
“The Osun election is a disgrace to nationhood. I don’t know whether the president has issued a congratulatory letter to the supposed winner of that election. If he did, then it is unfortunate for a man with integrity to accept that sham called election,” he had told The Sun.
“I know there wasn’t election there. The said election in Osun was a broad daylight robbery and it should be condemned by all. I can never subscribe to that kind of victory because it is not a victory, but robbery and the person that assumed that office be it a Muslim or a Christian, must go for confession to ask God for forgiveness because God forgives no matter what crime you have committed.”
While speaking with reporters in October 2018, the pro-chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, said the ruling party may not be lucky to rule Nigeria for 16 years like his former party.
“Like I keep telling people who care to listen that APC may not be lucky to rule this country for 16 years as the PDP did,” Waku said.
“I am not a prophet of doom, but from the look of things, it appears that the APC cannot be that lucky because of the management of the administration in partisan politics. It is becoming a bit clumsy and Nigerians are getting wiser and they would not tolerate that kind of oppression or suppression any longer. So, that is why I said that things will definitely evolve itself through a democratic mechanism.”
STOOD BY ORTOM
When Samuel Ortom, governor of Benue state, dumped the APC for the PDP, the deceased did not end his relationship with him. Boasting that no man born of a woman could address him as a failed politician, Waku said he could defend any action he took.
“I have made it public that I am working for Ortom. I’m not PDP. In fact, as I speak to you, I’m a card-carrying member of APC, but that does not mean that the APC as a political party will blind my eyes and my brains and my thoughts. No way!”
“I’m too old to be following ABC. No. I follow people, I believe in people. I trust in people and I work for that. So, I am not working for PDP, I’m not against APC, but I am working for Ortom; full stop. And no man born of a woman can stop me from doing what I’m doing. And I have no apologies to anybody. In fact, if he invites me to accompany him officially with a letter as a guest speaker during his campaigns, I will go.”
Unfortunately, Waku cannot accompany Ortom to any rally as he has embarked on a journey of no return.